There is still no timeline for when the STARS air ambulance helicopter will be back in the province’s skies, according to Health Minister Erin Selby.
Speaking to reporters yesterday after touring the Brandon Regional Health Centre, Selby said patient safety remains the No. 1 priority in the decision to ground the service.
"STARS won’t go back up into the air until our medical professionals say that all their concerns have been addressed," Selby said.
The service is heavily relied upon by people who live in remote parts of Manitoba, particularily in rural areas, where access to emergency rooms lags behind their urban counterparts.
Selby, who was appointed to the health portfolio in October, touched on a number of broad issues facing the health-care system during her stop.
Earlier this month, a survey from the Canadian Institute for Health Information survey revealed Manitobans have some of the longest waits for service in hospital emergency departments in the country.
"It’s not acceptable," Selby said.
A NDP commitment to ensure every Manitoban has a family doctor by 2015 will help alleviate some of that stress.
But it’s a lofty promise considering some communities in the Prairie Mountain Health region are having to shutter emergency rooms on weekends due to a shortage of physicians.
The region’s website shows more than 15 communities are in search of family physicians.
One tool that might help the shortage is the new mobile clinic.
Prairie Mountain Health CEO Penny Gilson, who toured with the minister, said the mobile clinic has been in a number of communities already.
While the number of people using the service wasn’t as high as anticipated, she expects the numbers to rise as people become more familiar with the clinic on wheels.
One nurse, speaking under a condition of anonymity, said ER wait times could be addressed more effectively by looking at the staffing model the hospital employs.
When the city hosts major events, she said staffing levels aren’t factored into manager’s decisions, often leaving staff shorthanded.
On weekends, she said, there isn’t a manager on duty to address issues, forcing more responsibility on the shift’s charge nurse.
Brian Schoonbaert, chief operating officer of the Brandon Regional Health Centre, said managers typically work during the week, but there is always the option of calling one in if the situation dictates it.
As for major, annual events, he said they’re factored into staffing to some degree.
"We don’t staff for every event, there are just too many," Schoonbaert said. "We have relief pools for those types of areas to make sure we have the ability to respond to those spikes."
» Twitter: @CharlesTweed